Time to re-think ‘Remembrance Day’
In Canada as in other Commonwealth nations, there is a lot of re-thinking taking place about Remembrance Day, and how we as a nation should honor our war dead. This is a sensitive thing for most of us, and especially for those of us who have served in uniform, in peace and in war. We all have opinions and thoughts on the matter and a good dialog is needed.
On my way to the CCAC Nursing Clinic I was listening to the radio, and I normally go from WGR550 in Buffalo, NY, to the FAN590 in Toronto, to get my sports headline fix. Today, both stations were going on their little promos through each story, talking about Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veterans Day (USA), and pimping and promoting the recognition of past and present service personnel who have served our nations, and how we should do more. I have found myself provoked by how the people speak about veterans and war and the “noble sacrifices” made by others for “our freedoms”. To say that I get ticked off is a mild understatement. Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz, the famous Prussian general stated and taught that “war is diplomacy by other means,” and I find that our culture too readily accepts that statement as a fact and that our society has no other option. I totally disagree with the pre-supposition that war is the last option and that there are in the end no other options. We just have never tried hard enough and nor have we put as much effort and resources in “waging peace” as we do in “waging war.”
Re-thinking the power of patriotism in our culture
I heard men on both these stations calling for more support for the military and its personnel and the services and sacrifices they have made for our country and quite frankly I find it disturbing. Today on the FAN590 Jeff Blair went on a bit of a “Remembrance Day Rant” where he encouraged all his listeners to take a moment of silence to remember the service personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. He encouraged people to go to the closest Remembrance Day Service, to go to a Cenotaph, to take some minutes of silence in honor of the dead from Canada’s wars, and even went on to say about “remembering those who will lay down their lives in the future,” and this statement put me over the top! It is this very idea, that there is no other option than waging war to fix and remedy issues of conflict between nations, which I find most upsetting and unsettling! This is the very reason why we keep perpetuating wars in the name of good on an ongoing basis in our world. We have so eliminated even the possibility that there could be no war and we throw our arms in the air flaying our arms around exclaiming that we cannot do anything else, and then we send our men and women in the service, to war on our behalf, all in the name of defending our freedoms and helping the victims of oppression and violence.
We have never exhausted peaceful means. We have tired of using peaceful means, and when we have become frustrated by the arduous and difficult work of waging peace, the relationship and consensus building that is required in finding common ground, and building trust between parties in conflict, that we simply walk away exasperated and frustrated and end up making any excuse to just go to war to end the conflict. This is what happened with the 2003 war in Iraq. It is just another example of justifying war, and minimizing the actual cost of what waging war does to those involved, from the politicians, to the service personnel and the victims of war.
I grew up in a Christian home that was remarkably absent of the teaching of Jesus on peace
I was born and raised in a Christian home, with my parents being not only Christians, but missionaries and church planters. I do not recall any time in my life, where my father even preached or taught on peace as a way of life, or a Christian political position to take when it involved conflict and strife and the possibilities of war and what a Christian ought to do.
In my teens I did a great deal of reading and found some great books on the “just war” theory, as well as other Christian views on war and the Christian’s relationship with the state. My father had very little influence or say in these matters as it was a subject he never broached with me. Even when I enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces Land Reserve while a senior in high school, he did nothing to dissuade me or to discuss even why I was interested in the army. He just signed off on the papers as I was under 18 and that was it.
The evolution of the idea of patriotism – from family duty to duty for country
My father instilled a sense of family pride in the accomplishments and military exploits of our forefathers who served in the British Army, recalling the exploits of those who served across the British Empire, going as far back as the Napoleonic Wars, India, South Africa, World War 1 and World War 2 and Korea. Both of my grandads served in the World War 2. So there was some pride in the serving of relatives who survived and also some lamenting of the people who perished, including my paternal grandmother who died as a nurse on a British hospital ship which was torpedoes by a German U-Boat in 1940. My dad loved to tell the story of Uncle Willie who lied about his age to enlist at 16 in 1914 and who suffered the effects of the first gas attack of World War 1 at Ypres. He lost his blond hair and it grew back all black and curly, and never ever changed color. It remained black and curly until he died in his last 70’s. Such were the stories that became the family history that firmly placed patriotism as this great virtue to be cherished and emulated. It was just expected that if your country needed you, then your family needed you, and that you would serve your country. There was never a discussion on the merits of war or on the alternatives to war. It was simply assumed that when war happens, you were expected to do your duty.
Standing at the cenotaph and drinking with veterans
I remember standing at the cenotaph in Perth, Ontario in 1970. I was 12. I went up to a World War 1 veteran and I shook his hand. He had a cane and we walked together. He told me of all the friends he lost in the First World War, and how that war changed his life forever. He told me how horrible the trenches were and how evil war is. He told me that he was haunted by his friends memories and that he kept doing the parades on 11 November, and going to the Legion Hall as a way of keeping their memories alive. The one thing that really struck my twelve year old mind was when he said that none of the friends he had, or even himself, ever thought of the war as this great event to save the world from the Hun (Germans). To him, it was all a great adventure, and none of them wanted to miss out on this adventure. All the talk we hear today on the noble sacrifices of the dead, are just the way our society and culture tries to make sense of all the war dead and the wasted lives of the soldiers who served.
When I was 17 and in the Army Reserve, I was one of the honor guards at the Cenotaph for three years straight. We started the night before and we rotated through for a 24 hour span, four servicemen to stand on guard, at attention, with rifles inverted as a sign of respect for the dead. Part of this whole thing included meeting and spending time with the Legion Branch Honour Guard. This is where we heard a lot of stories, and when we would go to the Legion Hall and drink with veterans. Again and again I heard the same thing. No one joined with the thought of doing the right thing against Hitler. They joined because they did not want to miss what they thought was the adventure of a lifetime. No one thought of death, or injuries, or being wounded or maimed, or even killing the Hun. It was the same rugged enthusiasm of youth, wrapped up in familial patriotism, and of responding like their dads and their uncles had in World War 1. So it was their turn to do it all again. They even said to me, no one even asked whether they should or should not go to war. It was just expected.
The more things move ahead the more they remain the same
Today, I think of the day that is set aside to remember veterans. As an infantryman that served eight years, I am opposed to only honoring and remembering the veterans. Nothing is going to change, and our level of expectation is never going to change, simply because we aim so low. We act as a society, that we have no other option but war when it comes to solving international conflicts. No one is sitting down with the conflicting parties and talking. No one is discussing the core issues and how to best resolve them. From the Ukraine and Russia, to ISIS and Syria, to Iraq and Afghanistan, to Boko Haram in Nigeria, we find the world in turmoil, conflict and death, and the cycle just continues unabated. We are in a self-perpetuating cycle of societal breakdown, conflict, war, and human tragedy. I am personally very dismayed by this cycle. How is our involvement in these conflicts a way of honoring our own war dead and their legacy of “making war no more”?
My father-in-law, Bob Rolston, modeled the heart of Christian non-violence and non-resistance
One person that I miss each day and think about many times through the day, is my father-in-law Bob Rolston, who loved me as his own son. He modeled for me Anabaptist theology of non-resistance and pacifism and non-violence. I tormented him with much teasing over the years. It took me 25 years to be persuaded that Jesus taught and modeled non-violence and the way of peace. I repented from my previous beliefs and values and throughout the Lord Jesus revealed to me that He is the embodiment of the way of peace and that it can be lived out by the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. We as the ambassadors of Christ do not use the ways and means of the world and of the anti-Christ to advance the Kingdom of God in the earth. War like sickness and disease is demonic and is of the anti-Christ. The evidence is that all of these plunder, steal and destroy. The evidence reveals it is demonic in origin. God will never use evil in order to accomplish good. There is no biblical thing that can be perceived as “redemptive violence”, in that God will use violence to bring about good. Violence has always been and always be demonic. Christians who espouse the use of violence for good, do so by creating a belief and living out a belief which is contrary to the Christian scriptures. They in fact create an idol in their own image. It took a long time, but I embraced the way of Jesus which is the way of peace and a total rejection of the “just war” position. I am forever grateful for the love Bob poured out into my life and the modeling of this way of living that he demonstrated in his own life.
I choose to wear the white poppy
I have supported the white poppy campaign for quite a few years now. The White Poppy was first introduced by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933 and was intended as a lasting symbol of peace and an end to all wars. It is a noble ideal and it is one that I support.
When the Royal British Legion refused to be associated with its manufacture and distribution, the Co-operative Wholesale Society became the producer of the White Poppy. In the 1930’s many veterans felt the White Poppy undermined their contribution and the lasting meaning of the Red Poppy. The issue at the time was hotly debated and contested, and some women even lost their jobs for wearing White Poppies. The White Poppy Appeal is no run by the Peace Pledge Union.
I choose to wear the White Poppy for significant reasons:
- The White Poppy is a symbol of peace while the Red Poppy is a constant reminder of the blood shed by soldiers who died for their country. Remembering the dead soldiers without a government that works to eradicate war as a way to deal with conflict to me dishonours the dead and makes their sacrifices appear trite.
- The White Poppy is about more than the sacrifices of soldiers. It is about remembering ALL the victims of war, soldiers, civilians and other victims of war.
- The White Poppy is a reminder that our governments have not eradicated war from the earth. Until that happens we all need to work for peace and an end to war as a means of diplomacy.
After World War 2, the UN set up a memorial as an inspirational warning to the nations of the world. In New York City where the United Nations were permanently established, there is a memorial park set up with a quote from the Old Testament, from the book of Isaiah.
“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares…” ~ Isaiah 2:4
We need to recover, as the Body of Christ, and the Universal Church, what was lost when Constantine bastardized the Church. The primary teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Peace was lost and was marginally recovered by different expressions of the Body of Christ over the centuries. But we need to have a whole new awakening to peace making, and to transforming our world into the kingdoms of our God, through the power of Christ and the Gospel of Peace. Until we cease viewing “just war” as one of many options for Christians, there will be no real substantive change. Until we cease from encouraging Christians to be involved in war industries and enlistment in the military establishment, we will not see change.
The Christian Gospel is in conflict with war
War is of the anti-christ, and is not of God. There is no way around it. We allow “just war” to exist, because we believe in our heart of hearts that God uses “redemptive violence” to accomplish His purposes in the earth. We end up creating theologies that reflect our own beliefs and not the character of God or the Bible. We end up with theories of the atonement that are in total conflict with the God of love we know from Scripture and our own relationship with Him. Penal substitutionary atonement has more in common with our idols that we have made that honor punitive justice rather than honoring the God of grace and love and redemption. The God of love is not Mars the god of war. It is time we honor the God of grace and love and redemption, and stop serving Mars the god of war, the Roman god.
Have we learned nothing in 1700 years? Are we citizens of the Kingdom of God, or the kingdom of Mars? Can we serve two masters? Is Jesus honored by a follower and disciple who is involved in the military establishment who could be asked to assist or directly intervene and kill another human being? Is that even possible in your mind? It appears that we have not made the distinction between what is of God and what is of the kingdoms of this world which is ruled by anti-christ.
Wishing you peace and waging peace, one person at a time.
Why the Poppy? http://www.bbc.co.uk/remembrance/how/poppy.shtml
Benjamin L. Corey post – 11 November 2015 https://www.facebook.com/benjaminlcorey/posts/803956883083552
Peace Pledge Union http://www.ppu.org.uk/
Turning AK-47’s into Guitars – http://popefrancisthedestroyer.blogspot.ca/2015/06/swords-to-ploughshares-no-guns-to.html